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Making sure it all gets done: Bride’s checklist

Set a date. Decide on the size and formality of the event. If you plan to be married in a church or temple, talk with your clergy to confirm the date.

Nine months (or longer) before the wedding

Set a date. Decide on the size and formality of the event. If you plan to be married in a church or temple, talk with your clergy to confirm the date.

Prepare a budget for your wedding, reception, and any other wedding-related parties.

Talk with reputable bridal planners. If you have a full-time job and your mother does, too, a talented wedding consultant could be your saving grace. Though they aren’t inexpensive, neither are the costly mistakes that their experience may prevent you from making.

Determine the time and place of your wedding and reception.

Draw up your guest list. Ask your fiancé’s family to do the same.

Ask family and/or friends to be in your wedding party. Be sure to be sensitive to any financial limitations they may have.

Seek out and buy a wedding gown and accessories.

Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses. If possible, arrange for attendants to see your favorites and give you feedback. This is a nice gesture since they traditionally pay for the dresses and shoes you select.

Interview photographers, videographers, florists, musicians, caterers, and cakemakers. (You may want to create files for each to keep track of bids, contracts, photos of their work, etc.)

Six to nine months before the wedding

Have your fiancé ask his family and/or friends to be in the wedding party.

Shop for wedding invitations as well as personal stationery for thank-you notes and at-home cards (if you’ll be using them). Make sure to order extra invitation envelopes since you’ll undoubtedly make a few addressing mistakes. You may also choose to order extra invitations to keep as mementos.

Decide on your fiancé’s wedding attire and that of his best man, groomsmen, ushers, and the fathers.

Ask your mother and your fiancé’s mother to shop for their dresses. Traditionally, the bride’s mother has first choice of style and color and your groom’s mother would follow that lead. However, you may decide to provide each with the predominant colors and a sense of the formality of your wedding and let them make independent decisions.

Start planning your honeymoon! Read your Sunday newspaper’s travel section, send for brochures, and consult with recommended travel agents. Also get tips from well-traveled friends and family.

Decide on the florist, caterer, cakemaker, photographer, videographer, and the entertainment. Get written contracts.

Four to six months before the wedding

Register with a wedding-gift registry. Department stores have the largest selection, but a growing number of specialty stores, museums, and mail-order companies offer bridal registry services, too. Check out the possibilities and remember you can register in more than one place. Many registry consultants will provide invaluable assistance with decisions regarding china patterns, silverware, appliances, and even home furnishings.

Reserve your rehearsal dinner location. Plan a rehearsal dinner that includes both of your immediate families, the wedding party and their spouses or dates, and out-of-town guests.

Book hotel accommodations for your attendants who live out of town, or arrange to have family or friends put them up.

At the same time, book a block of rooms at a hotel for other out-of-town guests. Ask about group discounts and weekend packages.

Begin fittings for your wedding gown and bridesmaids’ dresses.

Select a wedding ring for your groom. Have it engraved and sized (if necessary).

Three months before the wedding

Prepare, or ask a friend or family member to help out with easy-to-read maps (especially if you don’t live in the city where your wedding will take place) explaining how to get to hotels, as well as wedding and reception sites. You may also want to include other information such as fun sight-seeing, shopping, and restaurants. Include with invitations to out-of-town guests.

Address invitations and announcements. Take completed examples (make sure invitations are already stuffed with response cards, maps, hotel info, etc.) to the post office to find out what denomination of stamp you need. A choice of designs may be available. Buy your favorite and stamp everything so the invitations are ready to send out six to eight weeks before the wedding.

Meet with your caterer to talk about menus and other relevant details, including service charges, liquor costs, and waiters’ and bartenders’ fees (some of these may be included in the cost of your reception site instead). Give the caterer a rough estimate of the number of guests you expect. Be sure to get everything in writing.

Take swatches of your dress and those of your bridesmaids (as well as those of both mothers, if possible) to your florist. This will help both of you visualize wonderful and complementary flowers for the wedding ceremony and reception.

Firm up your honeymoon plans. Though this is traditionally the groom’s job, if you are enthusiastic about travel, you might want to contribute your two cents’ worth. In general, planning ahead means getting the best possible prices for everything from airfares to hotel reservations.

Have your groom hire a limousine or other transportation (a horse-drawn carriage is a romantic option in some places) to take the two of you from the wedding to the reception. Remember: Get a contract!

Compile a list of people you’d like invited to showers in your honor.

Shop for clothing for young members of your bridal party (flower girls and ring bearers). Ask their parents for help with sizes and fittings.

Shop for gifts for your attendants. Give yourself ample time to find things that are lovely and personal to show how much their friendship means to you. Shopping ahead also leaves time for any engraving you may decide to have done. Have your fiancé begin shopping for his attendants’ gifts, too.

Shop for a going-away outfit and clothing for your trousseau.

If you are renting tablewares, furniture, tents, etc., make those arrangements now.

Arrange with your photographer to have a formal bridal portrait taken six to eight weeks before your wedding. You may also decide to have a formal portrait taken of you with your groom. More and more brides submit these photos to newspapers.

Make appointments with a great hairstylist for the day your formal portrait is taken and the day of or day before your wedding. If you like, also make an appointment to have a manicure, makeup application, or facial.

Two months before the wedding

Call city hall for information on how to get a marriage license. Generally, couples must apply for this no more than a month before their wedding day.

Mail wedding invitations.

Buy a journal for recording gifts you receive. Make sure to record the giver, the address, the gift or gifts, when you received it, and any comments that will help you personalize the thank-you note, which you should send out as promptly as possible.

Plan a brunch or other activity for out-of-town guests for the day after the wedding. This is an optional but lovely way to end a wedding weekend and a warm way to show your appreciation for their making a special, costly trip to celebrate your wedding.

Arrange a time and place for a bridesmaids’ luncheon.

Complete all shopping for a going-away outfit and your trousseau.

Meet with and discuss all specifics with the musicians involved with your wedding: church organists, pianists, harpists, bands, string quartets, or disc jockeys. Talk about every little detail, especially with reception music: volume, type of music, the first dance song you’d like played, and any other sentimental favorites (either yours or someone else’s). Also spell out the duration of band or disc-jockey breaks, fees, and the possibility of overtime play.

Have a formal bridal portrait taken (some with your groom, too, if you choose).

Send a bridal portrait and announcement to newspapers.

If you want to personalize your ceremony, firm up your ideas and make an appointment to discuss them with the officiant.

Get together all necessary birth or baptismal certificates, passports, and other documents you may need for your marriage license.

Offer to help your groom and his parents select a site for the rehearsal dinner (especially if they are coming from another city to your hometown).

Two to four weeks before the wedding

Set the wedding rehearsal and firm up rehearsal dinner plans. Inform the bridal party, close family and friends, and any other out-of-town guests of rehearsal and rehearsal dinner times and places.

Get your wedding license and put it in a safe place. (Your officiant must sign it or the wedding will not be valid!)

Have a final fitting of your gown.

Double-check the clothes of the members of your wedding party.

Keep good track of invitation responses.

Buy a pretty wedding-guest book.

Firm up plans with your photographer for formal wedding shots of the bridal party as well as candid shots to be taken at the reception.

Firm up plans for videography of your wedding ceremony and the reception.

Give your caterer a solid estimate of the number of guests you expect to attend the reception and make final decisions regarding the menu. Your caterer can then give you a written cost-per-person breakdown of food and drink costs. This should be an extremely detailed account of exactly what will be served and in what quantities.

If you’re giving your groom a traditional gift, select one and wrap it at once—you won’t have time later.

Talk with your florist to make sure all is going as scheduled. Double-check addresses and times of delivery to wedding and reception sites.

Double-check your transportation plans: time, place, size, and number of vehicles.

Draw up seating arrangements and make place cards for the rehearsal dinner and the reception.

Decide who will stand in the receiving line and in what order. Bone up on receiving-line etiquette.

Are you keeping good track of gifts you receive? Are you writing thank-you notes every day?

Make any name or address changes on bank accounts, credit cards, driver’s licenses, insurance, Social Security forms, etc. Also be sure to file any change-of-address cards that may be necessary.

Two weeks before the wedding

Begin packing for your honeymoon. Buy any toiletries, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc., that you’ll need.

Relax as much as possible! Read a great book. Take long walks. Wade in a pool. Drink fresh-squeezed orange juice.

One week before the wedding

Make final checks with your officiant, florist, caterer, photographer, videographer, cakemaker, musicians, transportation providers, and any other contracted vendors.

Make sure your bridal-party gifts are wrapped and ready to be taken to the rehearsal dinner.

If other friends and family members have been especially helpful during the months and weeks leading up to your wedding, you might like to give them a token of appreciation, too.

Make arrangements with a friend or relative to transport gifts brought to the reception back to your home or that of your parents.

Ask a close friend or family member to help the photographer or videographer identify people you especially want captured on film or tape.

The day before the wedding

Spend the day pampering yourself. Have a facial, a massage, a manicure, or a pedicure.

Rehearse your ceremony with the bridal party. Give ushers the names of reserved seating guests.

Have fun at the rehearsal dinner.

Get a good night’s sleep (if possible!).

The day of the wedding

Give yourself plenty of time to get dressed.

Remember to keep your cool. No wedding in the history of time has ever gone off without a few hitches. You’ve spent the last year planning this event and have (naturally) lost all perspective. Honestly, nobody will notice that the pink in the napkins is off, or the special cake-cutting knife you ordered never arrived. If the day is magical for you, then it will be for everyone else, too. Best wishes for a long and happy life together!

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